This is Not Historic: Corinth’s Reclassification of a Historic District

Corinth Mills, Downtown Corinth Historic District, Franklin St. and the Norfolk Southern Railroad Tracks, Looking Southeast, Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

This is the first of two posts on Corinth regarding this situation, the second post will be published tomorrow.

Per the October 21, 2010 edition of the Daily Corinthian, the Corinth aldermen met on October 19 and voted to remove an area south of the Norfolk Southern Railroad tracks from the Corinth preservation district. The area that the Corinth aldermen voted to remove is four blocks, bounded on the east by Taylor St., on the west by Fillmore St., on the south by Tate St., and on the north by the railroad tracks. While the article in the Daily Corinthian refers to the area as a “preservation district” (a nebulous term indicative of a newspaper reporter who needs to do more research), the two blocks in between the railroad tracks and Wick St. are in fact in the National Register-listed Downtown Corinth Historic District; all four blocks are in the local “preservation district” that encompasses a great deal of Downtown Corinth. The Downtown Corinth Historic District was created in 1993 and roughly contains the area bounded by Wick St. to the south, Foote St. to the north, Webster St. to the east, and Jackson St. to the west.

Downtown Corinth Historic District, 230 Franklin St., Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

The Corinth Preservation Commission, as a preservation commission should, publicly supports delisting these four blocks of locally protected buildings. Wait a minute…shouldn’t they be opposing this…

Downtown Corinth Historic District, Looking Southeast Down Wick St., Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

This seems suspiciously like an attempt to remove a barrier to the complete destruction of the area. While not official to my knowledge, the removal of these four blocks from the historic district only requires local approval and a written response from the Mississippi Department of Archives and History, not approval. In the newspaper article, the Corinth building inspector Philip Verdung stated that he expected the response Wednesday, October 27. From the information I have, he received that letter on time.

Southeast Corner of Wick St. & Franklin St., Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

As you can see from my photographs taken in December 2008, the area does not contain high-style architecture, merely the types of simplified industrial buildings constructed at the turn of the 20th Century and slightly later. Notice how the area still retains the urban design aspects of that time period. The buildings come right up to the sidewalk and a semblance of street wall still exists. Notice also the utter lack of investment in the area. You should also know that my photographs show buildings which are only one block away from the Crossroads Museum (which is at the end of Wick St.) and only two blocks away from Borroum’s Drug Store (great burgers) and the N.W. Overstreet-designed Alcorn County Courthouse (both buildings are on Waldron St. off Franklin). Why is this area not historic? Why do these buildings not have businesses in them?

Downtown Corinth Historic District, North Side of Wick St. Between Franklin St. & Taylor St., Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

I think that the socio-economics of Corinth are a large factor in the abandonment of this area. This area does not contain the high-style buildings that everyone loves. These are either industrial structures or commercial structures associated with industry. Most importantly, these buildings are south of the railroad tracks. Corinth has a very pronounced north/south divide. North of the railroad tracks is the courthouse, the historic business district, and the best, most historic neighborhoods in Corinth. South of the tracks, the area is much more economically depressed with light industry and commercial sprawl mixed with what are perceived as less-than desirable neighborhoods farther off. While the downtown area north of the tracks is bordered by the Liddon Mansion, Fish Pond House, and innumerable other historic assets, this area south of the tracks does not have that advantage, despite the short distance that separates the two.

Does this area have a secure future? Safe Door, Downtown Corinth Historic District, West Side of Franklin St., Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

For more information, read the Jebb Johnson article “Aldermen pass proposed changes affecting central business district” in the October 21, 2010 issue of the Daily Corinthian.

Downtown Corinth Historic District, Northeast Corner of Wick St. & Franklin St., Corinth, MS, December 31, 2008

All photographs by W. White. Please do not use without permission.



Categories: Corinth, Demolition/Abandonment, Historic Preservation, Industrial, National Register, Preservation Law/Local Commissions

1 reply

  1. I think you’re right about this being a precursor to allowing the demolition of the properties, and I’m disappointed in the city leadership, including the preservation commission and the building inspector for using this tactic to do that. Ultimately though the responsibility is on the owner(s) shoulders, and they are accountable for allowing this whole area to just be abandoned. Regardless of whether the neighborhoods adjacent are “less-than-desirable” there’s no excuse for the level of abandonment evident from your pictures.

    I live in an area of Jackson that could also be considered less than desirable by many people–low to moderate income renters and owners, racially mixed, etc–and is near a 1950s commercial district that used to have nice stores like McRaes, movie theater, and the like. It has suffered from decline in the last two decades, but the fact is, most of the storefronts are still occupied, just by different, more mom-and-pop types of establishment than before. Within walking distance, I can buy a wig, cash a check on credit, grab a sub, and go to a variety of dollar stores. Granted none of these is hip or cool or gentrified like the other side of the tracks in Corinth, but they are legitimate businesses that normal low-to-moderate income people use. So why hasn’t this area of Corinth gone to those types of businesses rather than allow buildings to sit vacant for so long that they lose their roofs and such? It all goes back to the will and imagination of the owner, or in this case, the lack thereof.

    Nevertheless, this is disappointing and a very bad precedent for dealing with similar situations around the state.

    Like

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